As a PADI Divemaster, you become a member of PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors.) Many scuba divers who have gotten certified through PADI harbour the belief that they are members. This isn’t exacly discouraged, but it’s factually incorrect. Members of PADI are divemasters, assistant instructors, instructors and upwards in the PADI echelon. The “Professional” part of the acronym means, that it’s something you do for living. It’s an actual job.
Thus becoming a divemaster can really be considered vocational scuba training. You’ll learn what you need to know to work with recreational scuba diving such as guiding certified divers and assisting instructors when they teach diving courses. You’ll also learn how to take people who have never scuba dived before out on intro dives and you’ll help divers who’s been out of the water for a while refresh their skills in a safe manner.
During the divemaster course you’ll be introduced to a wide range of various skills you need to earn proficiency in. You’ll learn how to map a dive site, you’ll practise your rescue skills, you’ll lead divers in a controlled environment accompanied by your instructor and you’ll assist on a number of PADI diving courses. You will also need to learn how to demonstrate various scuba skills (such as clearing your mask, donating air etc.) to a professional demonstration level. That means doing it so slowly and exaggerated that by your example you can teach divers what to do.
The idea is that you’ll learn to demonstrate skills to such a good standard during your divemaster course, that you’ll be ready to enroll in a PADI instructor development course should so choose. We do not currently offer instructor training, but we have friends that do – so if you should wish to make the move that way after having stayed at Marine Conservation Philippines, we can give you a leg up.
What’s it like to become a divemaster with Marine Conservation Philippines?
If you consider doing your divemaster training with us, there’s a number of things we must advise you on. For a start all of our diving programs are keyed into or influnced by our conservation efforts. As an example our standard Open Water Course takes somewhat longer as we incorporate a lot more bouyancy work to make sure our volunteers actually have the skills required to do the conservation and surveying work. Most initial diver training, no matter if it’s PADI, SSI or another training organisation aims to make new divers safe, and reasonably proficient – we have higher aspirations as few divers out of a typical open water course have the skills to do the work we wish to do. Realising this, we do extended training and pad the courses with extra training dives.
This priciple very much goes for the divemaster education as well. The divers and logistics you would learn to be in charge of would primarily be fellow conservationists and scientific divers in training, rather than typical dive tourists. Our dive operation also runs a lot more flexible than that of a typical dive center – we do not have tight schedules to follow etc. We take our time to do things right (for our purpose).
This means that in some ways a divemaster internship with us is quite dissimilar to that of almost any other dive shop. There are of course certain things that you will need to do during the divemaster program, in order to honour the PADI standards of the program – but in actual fact the majority of the training, dives and work will be at a somewhat advanced, or at least different stage, that that of a typical dive center. This will give you hands on experience with conservation work and you’ll learn a lot of marine science. What you will NOT do, is dealing with regular walk-in-customers, or taking tourists on guided dives. The diving we undertake is different, and it’s something that’s important for us to stress to you, as you’d be dissapointed if you expect the DM training to reflect the reality of most typical dive centers. It’s important for us to clarify, and it’s an important distinction to keep in mind if you plan on working in recreational diving in a casual diveshop after your divemaster program, because you’ll probably be used to standards being a little more “hardcore.” if you’ve done your training with us.
Is becoming a divemaster for everyone?
No. There’s no denying that being a divemaster looks good on your resume and shows ledership qualifications, but If you’re not happy with the idea of taking charge, leading divers underwater, giving briefings to a bunch of people or maybe even having to try to save someone if an accident occurs, then it’s not for you. Of course you will not be very proficient at those skills initially – noone is. You may never have addressed a crowd before you start the divemaster course, you may be used to others taking charge. That’s all alright, but you have to be ready to take the reigns yourself. You don’t have to be good at these things to start, but it’s important to keep in mind that the end goal of the course is to make you reasonably confident with all of these tasks.
What are the requirements to start the course?
To enroll in the PADI divemaster course you’ll need to have certain prerequisites in order. You do not need to arrive at Marine Conservation Philippines with all these boxes ticked, (But if you do, great!) but by the time you start your course, it must all be sorted. If you arrive as a non-diver or as a diver with very little experience, (Say only a handful of dives and the Open Water Course) we suggest you spend 3-4 weeks to build up your experience and do the prerequisite courses, before enrolling in the DM course.
These are the things you must have sorted out before starting:
How long does it take to become a PADI divemaster?
Because of the check-list format of the divemaster course (once you’ve done something sufficiently well, you can tick it off – same as with any PADI course) It’s possible to complete the course in as little as two to three weeks. While this may technically be possible while still adhering to PADI standards, we feel the rather grandiose title of divemaster would be somewhat misplaced. While you can certainly improve tremendously as a diver, and you can learn to perform skills to demonstration standard in two weeks, you’ll not develop any real mastery of diving. In order to become a proficient divemaster, you have to be experienced with many different kinds of conditions, deep dives, night dives, drift diving, various boats and beach entries, different kinds of equipment setup, various equipment failures, diver psychology and much much more. In our opinion anything shorter than a month or two (at the bare minimum) doesn’t make any sense. That’s just being honest. Some people do the course just to gain experience, to dive lots and improve their personal dive skills, without ever contemplating actually working professionally with scuba diving. We won’t mind teaching you in this case – those ambitions are just as valid as any other, but we won’t teach short courses. We will teach you to the level, we would want to be proud off is you did want to go somewhere and work.
Unlike many commercial PADI shops who do short divemaster courses, we ask volunteers to stay two months. (You are of course very welcome to stay longer, and we’d dearly like your help with our conservation efforts with the experience you’ll have as a DM) This length of time is long enough that prospective divemaster get enough experience and training while with us, but also gives you a little safety buffer in case you suffer an ear infection or some other trivial thing prevents you from diving for a week.
Frequently asked questions on the divemaster course
Q: What can I learn at MCP, that I couldn't anywhere else?Staying with us, and by helping doing the work we do, you will have opportunities to learn a lot of ecology and marine biology that’s falls way outside the normal scope of divemaster training. You’ll also take part in any number of activities, ranging from communicative assignments such as teaching to practical conservation work such as planting mangroves, doing underwater construction work, mapping submerged areas or any number of other skills, that you won’t learn anywhere else. What exactly these things are changes somewhat from time to time, depending on what our ongoing project needs are. What is important to understand is that we're a working environmental organisation, and when you are not on dedicated divemaster training, you will be part of our teams. Strictly diving related, you’ll learn to be a very capable diver with excellent buoyancy and trim, ready for advanced scientific work and technical diving. We dive exclusively in technical backplate/wing setups, and while with us you can learn how to do advanced dive planning, service scuba equipment, dive with stage tanks, get involved with technical diving and much more. All of this requires time, but by the time you finish your training you will have technical diver skills and be able to do helicopter turns, back kicks and be comfortable with different finning techniques. You’ll also be able to complete difficult tasks while maintaining perfect buoyancy control and trim, and your underwater problem solving skills will be second to none. To be very precise - we are happy to teach you far beyond the minimum you need to know to pass, and we are sure we teach to a higher dive skill standard that any recreational diveshop you can find. This too explains why our courses are as long as they are.
Q: Can I do the divemaster course faster?Absolutely. But not with MCP. There’s two reasons why this is so. On one hand we actually want to be able to be proud of our candidates. Once you get that certification you have professional license to work in the field as a professional diver in charge of the safety of others. That’s not something to take too light hearted, honestly. Many recreational dive shops teach the course in as little as fourteen days. Basically, to these shops, each trainee through the doors is money on the bottom line, so if you are not going to work with them, the faster you get in and out the door the better. We have completely different ambitions. The other reason we insist on taking two month is so that you also get time to experience working in conservation. This is good for you, but it also justifies all the additional effort our instructors will put into your training.
Q: Do you offer free internships?Because of the scientific nature of our work, we neither want nor expect our divemaster candidates to do any marketing or recruiting of divers. As a divemaster candidate you will not be walking beaches to hand out brochures, or sit outside trying to persuade passers by to try diving. The typical ways divemaster candidates repay free internships do simply not apply to us. We are not a recreational dive shop, and are in absolutely no competition against any such establishments. Doing divemaster training with us is very, very dissimilar. Our organisation mostly attract volunteers who are already divers; many of whom are very capable and experienced. The kind of diving we do is almost entirely work or mission-oriented. This means “guides” aren’t needed, nor do our divers need anyone to help them with gear or other mundane tasks. Volunteers are fully expected to wash their own scuba gear, carry their tanks and plan their dives. All the work that you could possibly do to repay for training in a diveshop that offers “free internship” is either not needed, or someone is already doing it at part of their own duties. So basically, no, we do not offer free internships. Please be aware the reason some dive shops offer free internships isn’t altruism. Trainees repay their training with their work. This can be a fair deal if you pay back by guiding divers or doing boat briefings and you want to work in the recreational scuba industry as a divemaster. In such a case, all your efforts becomes part of the learning process - And although you are actually working for free, it's all part of the learning process. Regrettably, Often, it’s disguised exploitation if the work you will repay with is by sweeping floors and recruiting divers, cleaning bungalows, doing bar tending in a resort or other mundane tasks that’s not helping you become a professional diver. There are many thinly disguised “free internships” out there that are just cheap labour.
Q: What is the cost of the divemaster courseOften the biggest expense when doing prolonged professional diver training abroad isn't the actual training itself, but rather the basic cost of living while doing it - meals and accommodation really start adding up over several months. Due to our remote location, at Marine Conservation Philippines all of this is necessarily included as part of the volunteer package. Additionally, to make fair comparisons it's a good idea to look at the hidden fees - often cost of scuba gear rental, marine parks fees etc. are not included in quoted prices. Everything considered, in our experience doing divemaster training with Marine Conservation Philippines is generally similarly priced or cheaper that doing a similar length program elsewhere. The experience is very dissimilar however, but only you can determine if that is a good or bad thing for you. How long you want to stay and spend on doing your DM-training depends on yourself and how much you'd want to get out of your training - Taking longer will make you better of course. There are some minimum durations listed somewhere above. Besides the cost of your manuals and materials, the cost of doing the divemaster training is the same as regular volunteers pay, so 450 USD weekly multiplied by number of weeks, which covers three daily meals, accommodation, all diving, tuition, gear rental, transportation, marine park fees, free tea and coffee, airport pickup etc. Financially an eight week divemaster program could look something like this: 8 weeks accommodation, food, diving, gear rental, tuition: 8 x 450 USD = 3600 USD Divemaster crewpack (manual and materials) 200 USD PADI application fee (Paid directly to PADI, not MCP) 120 USD A typical twelve week divemaster program for a candidate with no prior scuba dive experience could look like this: 12 weeks accommodation, food, diving, gear rental, tuition: 12 x 450 USD = 5400 USD Open Water Course 85 USD Advanced Open Water Course 85 USD Rescue Diver Course 85 USD EFR - first aid course 65 USD Divemaster crewpack (manual and materials) 200 USD PADI application fee (Paid directly to PADI, not MCP) 120 USD Many divemaster candidates additionally do the enriched air nitrox specialty (65 USD) and/or the self-reliant diver course. (50 USD)
Q: Can I do my instructor training also?MCP is not a PADI instructor development centre (IDC), however we do have instructor internships..
The divemaster course and the scientific diver license
If you’re interested in becoming a PADI divemaster as well as an scientific diver, you should be aware that both of these courses have rather steep requirements. While a good number of the dives you will do at Marine Conservation Philippines will be eligible to apply as credit towards reaching the respective criteria of both the courses, some will not. You should give ample time to each course – If you come with little or no previous diving experience, you should expect to spend three months (or more) to reach a license as a scientific diver as well as that as a PADI divemaster. It goes without saying that the courses are complimentary – you’ll be a much better divemaster with the knowledge about underwater ecosystems the scientific diving course will give you, and your situational awareness underwater, your extensive rescue and safety training and organisational skills as a working scientific diver will all benefit from the training program of the PADI divemaster course.